When Protestants Become Catholic: Are the Church Fathers a Danger to Born Again Christians?

Today I read another article about a Protestant becoming Catholic through the reading of the early church fathers. Is this really where the writings of the church fathers lead?

I’ve been reading the writings of the 2nd through 4th century fathers for 20 years now, and I have never thought about becoming Catholic. On the other hand, the person who introduced me to the early church fathers became an Anglican priest–for a while–because the Anglicans claim apostolic succession like the Roman Catholics do.

I don’t think the early church fathers lead in any way toward Catholicism, but there is a reason that people are confused into believing that they do.

It’s because Protestants neither care about nor understand the church.

The Church Is the What???

I read a blog one day by a former Protestant pastor turned Catholic priest. He said the turning point for him was when a Catholic asked him what is “the pillar and support of the truth.”

He answered, of course, that the pillar and support of the truth is the Scriptures. So the Catholic told him, “Why don’t you go read 1 Tim. 3:15.”

1 Tim 3:15 says, of course, that the church, not the Bible, is the pillar and support of the truth.

He was on his way to becoming Catholic.

Which Church?

The question every Protestant will ask himself when he reads 1 Tim. 3:15 is, “Which church?” Which church is the pillar and support of the truth?

The Roman Catholics think it’s obvious. So do I.

But I think the Roman Catholics are obviously wrong. Here’s why.

How Can a Church Be the Pillar and Support of the Truth?

Rather than listening to Catholic reasoning or Protestant reasoning, why don’t we look at what the apostles said about the truth. How was someone supposed to know the truth.

Twice the Scriptures talk about how to escape corrupt men who try to seduce us away from the truth. Once, it’s in Ephesians 4:11-16. There the combination of, one, church leaders equipping us to build the church and , two, speaking the truth in love to one another leads to our being solid in the truth.

The other is 1 Jn. 2:26-27, where John tells us that the anointing will lead us into what is true and not a lie.

One important point Protestants miss when they read 1 Jn. 2:27 is that the “yous” in that verse are plural. The anointing will lead us, not me, into the truth.

Let’s think about this a moment …

How are we being led into truth? How are we being protected from error?

According to Ephesians 4 and 1 John 2, the church–which 1 Tim. 3:15 tells us the pillar and support of the truth–will guide us into truth by the following method:

  1. Church leaders equip us to be beneficial to the church … to build it up (Eph. 4:12)
  2. We speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:13-16)
  3. The anointing–the guidance of God–leads us together into the truth

Now that we’ve got the how, let’s get back to the which …

Which Church Was That Again?

So what church can lay hold of these promises of God? Any church can, right?

No, actually not. Only pliable churches can lay hold of these promises of God. Only churches that can be led by the anointing can lay hold of these promises.

The Roman Catholic Church is not pliable.

Also, only local  churches can lay hold of these promises. You have to have Christians gathering together, seeking God together, and speaking the truth in love to one another. That requires a local church.

The Roman Catholic Church may have some local churches, but it claims to seek and know truth at the heights of hierarchy. It most certainly does not come from “lay” people.

The Roman Catholic Church Has Hijacked the Church Fathers!

Because Protestants have foolishly ignored the wonderful heritage of the apostles–the traditions taught by the apostles themselves and preserved in their early churches–the Roman Catholics have hijacked the fathers. They run an ongoing pretense that the church fathers are Roman Catholic!

They’re not!

There was no pope in the early church.  Apostolic succession had to do with the preservation of truth, not authority.

The former Episcopal priest mentioned in the article that starts this blog took Cyprian of Carthage as his patron saint. He says:

He’s the one who said, ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation.’

In fact, Cyprian is one of many early Christians who said such a thing. Ireneaus, for example, writing some 70 years before Cyprian and less than a century after the death of the apostle John, says:

It is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the church; since the apostles, like a rich man in a bank, lodged in her hand most copiously all things pertaining to the truth, so that every man, whoever will, can withdraw from her the water of life. She is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. (Against Heresies, III:4:1)

But which church?

Remember, there was no pope in the church in Irenaeus’ day. In fact, Irenaeus twice had to save the Roman church from the failings of its bishops, once when Victor was being seduced by the Valentinians and once when Eleutherus wanted to split the churches of the empire over the date on which to celebrate Passover (which we now call Easter).

The churches did consult with one another. Irenaeus adds:

Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the the apostles held constant intercourse and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? (ibid.)

Notice, however, that Irenaeus does not suggest consulting Rome.  In fact, in the matter of the Valentinians and the dispute over Passover, Rome consulted him!

He recommends going to any church that can answer the question.

The Roman Catholic Church loves to make a big issue out of the fact that Irenaeus listed the succession of bishops in the Roman church from Peter to Irenaeus’ own time. But why did Irenaeus choose Rome?

Since, however, it would be tedious in such a volume as this to reckon up the successions of all the churches … (ibid., III:3:2)

All Irenaeus had was a collection of churches. There was no hierarchy for him to point to as the official organization that offered salvation to the world. When he spoke of a church, he meant a local church, just as Paul and John did when they spoke of the preservation and finding of truth within the church.

Missed By Protestants and Catholics Alike

There is a Protestant translation of the early church fathers called The Ante-Nicene Fathers.  Despite being Protestant, they make the same mistake that Roman Catholics do, substituting some denomination or hierarchy for the local church.

In Tertullian’s brilliant work, The Demurrer Against Heretics, he writes about the truth that comes from the apostles through the churches. Yet even though he uses the word “churches,” in the plural, five times in chapter 21 of that work, the Protestant translators subtitle the chapter, “All Doctrine True Which Comes Through the Church from the Apostles.”

They’re wrong! All doctrine is true which comes through the churches from the apostles!

It’s part of his argument! He argues, “Is it likely that so many churches, and they so large, should have gone astray into one and the same faith?” (ibid., 28).

Sure it’s likely, if there’s a pope. If there’s no pope, however, and all the churches of his day (A.D. 200 – 220) were independent, then his argument has weight.

Which Church? A Practical Application

I recommend reading the church fathers. I recommend believing that there’s no salvation outside the church. After all, it’s the Scriptures themselves that tell us that if we are not exhorted daily, then we are in danger of hardening by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). You need the church, as Paul argues so effectively in 1 Cor. 12. You cannot tell the other members you don’t need them.

But once you believe there’s no salvation outside the church, then you have to get in the church that those early church fathers were talking about: the local church.

Which one is that?

It’s the one that’s scattered through all the denominations, split up and fighting with one another over stupid doctrines designed by men that are offensive to God.

It’s the one whose members are in fellowship with fakes, trying to reach out to them and smile at them in the pew next to them. They don’t know those people in the pew next to them, but they can be reasonably confident those people do not want to forsake all their possessions for Christ, open their homes to destitute brothers and sisters, or risk their lives ministering in the inner city or overseas. Shoot, those people in the pews haven’t even heard that they can’t belong to Christ if they don’t hate their family, deny themselves, and forsake their possessions (Luke 14:26-33).

We have to rescue that badly-divided, ineffective, almost invisible church. We have to gather those that have heard the Gospel of complete submission to Christ so that they can show the world around them what Jesus can do through people wholly submitted to him.

We have to gather them so that the truth can be gathered once again into the only container that can hold it: the local church.

I have heard a thousand complaints–from supposed but false Christians–about Jesus Christ’s statement that none of us can be his disciple without forsaking all our possessions (Luke 14:33). What does that mean? I’m on a computer. I’m wearing clothes. I’m sitting at a table in a warm house. In what way have I forsaken all my possessions?

That decision isn’t up to me. The truth of Jesus Christ’s statement is revealed and known when set upon “the pillar and support of the truth.” The pillar and support of the truth is a pliable and local church–nothing else.

Radical Christianity and Radical Restoration of the Church

When I say restoration, I don’t mean restoring some doctrine. I mean restoring the local church. I mean gathering those that love God with their whole hearts and who have wholeheartedly submitted to Christ, then letting them know they no longer need to fellowship with half-hearts. In fact, it’s divisive do do so.

That’s radical. Most people would say it’s impossible.

It’s not; it can’t be.

There isn’t any other church, and we need the salvation it possesses. In that church, there is great grace. In that church, there is a power unknown to those who have not experienced the daily fellowship of the local church, a gathered group of disciples, who are being taught by God as he bestows his anointing in subjection to the teaching of the apostles as found in the Scriptures.

Today, there is a huge flow of people leaving institutional Christianity to meet in homes. This is a terrific opportunity to be taught of God! This is a terrific opportunity to throw off denominational bonds and unite the disciples!

It needs two things:

  1. It needs to preach a true Gospel. Jesus calls us to wholeheartedly abandon our lives to follow him.
  2. It needs pliability and flexibility. It must be able to be taught by God. It cannot be focused on or based in doctrine carried over from denominations based in intellectual interpretations of the Scripture. The Scripture was written to produce good works in disciples (2 Tim. 3:16-17), not create ridiculous reasonings and doubtful disputations.

It’s worth it.

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29 Responses to When Protestants Become Catholic: Are the Church Fathers a Danger to Born Again Christians?

  1. “You said that the Catholic Church hijacked the Church Fathers” Will you Please Provide me an evidence that they are protestant? Besides you said that you have been reading the Church Fathers for twenty years im wondering why you missed St Ignatius of Antioch about the Catholic Church, St Polycarp, St Athanasius in his letter to Sirapion against the arian heresy which the dogma of the apostles creed was formulated. As if for me you so blinded by the invention of the amoralist nominalist idea in the middle ages where your apostate Father Martin Luther & John Calvin came into the scene. Did you ever came across Henry Newman or Perhaps Alister Mcgrath in his book IUStia Die: Ahistory on christian doctrine. I will refer you to Dr. Arthur Sippo in his blog “Art of attack catholic apologitic with edge”. Waiting for response.
    Bro. Russel

    • Shammah says:

      I never said the early church fathers were Protestant. How could they be? Protestant refers to people who “protest” against the Roman Catholic Church, and it didn’t exist until at least the 5th century.

      The issue is not Protestant vs. RCC. The issue is what’s true.

      What’s true is that St. Ignatius says nothing at all about the Roman Catholic Church. The churches of the second century were referred to as catholic churches or apostolic churches, or even “the church that is one.” The use of “catholic” in such a context is not evidence for a pope in Rome.

      As for the books to which you refer, they are on the wrong subject. The subject I brought up was history. The early church fathers say one thing in their writings, and the Roman Catholic Church claims they say something different. That is because they are trying to prove there was a pope with authority over all the western churches prior to the 5th century, which is impossible to prove because it’s not true.

      My statement (that the RCC hijacked the church fathers) has nothing to do with doctrine, just fact. The RCC makes up their own pre-Nicene history. I spend a lot of effort on my web site at http://www.christian-history.org giving the real history as found in the early Christian writings.

  2. Belloc1 says:

    This is truly a great debate. I have learned alot from all the issues presented. At the end I am even more encouraged in my decision to enter the Catholic Church this Easter! I am finally at a Church were you can’t make up whatever you want and call it orthodoxy. Protestantism is shrinking into the Emergent church and will be far more entrenched in the ‘Spirit’ than the scriptures in a few years, essentially falling into paganism with scripture on the side. -Pax

  3. hopelesslydevoted says:

    I think that you are right discussing the catholic church is ridiculous. Maybe if protestants were the ones under fire all the time you would feel a little less righteous. Funny how a sect that basses its teaching on sola scriptura and sola fide would find it hard to follow the church of christ. The protestant religions two most impressive documents are self refuting at best. Sola scriptura states that scripture proves scripture. Well tell me where that is ever stated in scripture. Beloved protestant apoligist steve white would even agree here in me saying that it isnt. Also the only place you find scripture alone in the gospel you see a big fat not by right in front of it.

    im sure you wont approve my comment either

    but who am i but a 21 year old catholic who once questioned his faith too

    you know the holy spirit isnt confused but protestants seem to like it that way considering they cant agree on anything yet they boast that they are lead by it.

    I have nothing but love for you all

    I myself still play with the praise and worship band i did previously

    but the truth is out there we just have to submit to it just like the gospel says

    • shammahbn says:

      I don't believe in Sola Scriptura. I believe the doctrine of sola scriptura is responsible for justifying the rampant division among Protestants today.

      I say justifying because the cause of division is the flesh. Doctrine is only a justification for giving into our flesh and forming schisms.

      However, staying in fellowship with a church that is worldly and whose basis has very little to do with the Gospel is foolish. Even if I don't believe in SOLA Scriptura, I certainly believe in living by the Scriptures and saying what they say. Luther and Calvin tried to do so, and they were kicked out of the Catholic Church. Roman Catholics today keep talking like Luther and Calvin formed schisms on purpose. No, they didn't. They simply tried to teach the Scriptures, and the extremely corrupt, worldly, and money-loving Roman Catholic Church excommunicated them.

      The actions of the Catholic Church were so bad, and their rejection of these men so wrong, that whole provinces stood with them.

      That's what happened. If the result later was that the Protestants have some false doctrines, that certainly doesn't mean that I, living in Selmer, TN and Auburn, CA, should go back to an organization famous for persecuting Christians, for opposing the availability of the Scriptures, for loving money, and for rampant corruption. Instead, it means that I should reject those false doctrines and return to the apostolic basis for a church, the only church the New Testament knows about, which is the local saints, gathered together as one family.

      So that's what I'm doing.

  4. Pingback: The Rest of the Old Old Story » Apostolic Succession, Unity, and What Really Matters

  5. William says:

    This is a very edifying article. It coincides with many things that the Lord has been showing me lately. Just the other day, I saw an article on a major news site talking about how many Christians are getting back into a home church movement. I could be mistaken, but I don't think it's that big yet, however it will probably grow immensely by 2020. The thing that I find remarkable is that many self-righteous evangelical Christians in the south are looking more and more like Catholics, the very people they claim to be hate. The fact of the matter is, we're heading back into dead-religion land, the place where we need priests to intercede between us and God (without Jesus mind you). Paul warned us that times would come in which teachers would openly deny the Christ bringing swift destruction upon themselves. But many of us don't understand that this creeps up on us through through a dead works based religion. Even trying to get to heaven by works is the work of the Antichrist spirit, because it makes us a priest to God, and bypasses the sanctifying grace that only comes through faith in Jesus, who is the only high priest between us and God the Father.

    I realize that there is still an elect, and that there are brethren spread throughout the world, let alone America. In fact, I have gone to some pretty awful churches who have obviously wrong doctrine, and are caked in complacence, but I go to one of their bible studies. I swear, the most grace I have ever seen has been mostly in bible studies of like minded people wrangling and analyzing scripture. The problem so much today is that so many folks put their trust in the man in the pulpit and don't even read their bibles that much. They don't test the preacher, they just accept what he says at face value and then go home and live the lives unchanged by God's Holy spirit. The grace of God is many times suppressed in this way. This church leader-ism has a place once in a while, but today, I believe that we need to reform the church and start back over with the people of the church being the main focus. We don't all need to be theologians or scholars, but we need to have true fellowship with one another (and not this manufactured Sunday churchism compartmental fellowship). We need to gather together and worship God. A part of a Spurgeon sermon comes to memory:

    "Oh for the days when Whitfields would preach on tubs once more, when their pulpits should be on Kennington Common, and their roofs the ceiling of God's sky. Oh for the time when we might preach in barns again, or in catacombs either, if we might but have the life of God that once they had in such places."

    We need to realize that the Lord can raise up anybody to preach His gospel, and that He truly gives gifts as He will. He can raise up a person with downs syndrome and endow them with the the spirit of the prophet Elijah if He so choses. The Holy spirit is our true teacher, and not any man.

    • shammahbn says:

      Thank you for commenting, William! I've been traveling so it's been difficult to be prompt with handling comments the last few days. Back to normal next week!

      I'm actually in California trying to help people be founded in that fellowship you describe. So many people have no idea that Christ is not first in their life, and they're stunned to find out what they are putting in front of serving Christ and building his church.

      • William says:

        Say, have you ever heard of a preacher named Milton Green? You might like to read a book of his called "The Great Falling Away Today". It talks about a lot of problems in the church today, and how churches have become idols in the shepherd's hearts. He's not even that well educated, but the anointing of the Holy spirit on him is unmistakable.

        • shammahbn says:

          I have not heard of Milton Green. I'm glad someone is pointing out that the great falling away is going on all around us.

  6. Shammah says:

    Douglas,

    I don’t have time to give you a thorough answer right now, but I wanted you to know I saw this. Here’s the short answer, without references. I’ll give you a better answer with references in a couple days.

    The early church did talk about the Eucharist being the body and blood of Christ. There’s no indication they believed in transubstantiation, which suggests that there’s a physical change in the wine and bread. Ignatius called the Eucharist “the medicine of immortality.”

    Every Protestant I’ve ever talked to about there being something real and communicating grace in the Lord’s Supper really liked the idea.

    The early church did believe in baptismal regeneration. The Scriptures teach it pretty clearly, and everyone in the church believed it until AFTER the Reformation.

    That doesn’t mean they believed in infant baptism. I have a page on that at http://www.christian-history.org/infant-baptism.html.

    If you look at the Scriptures on baptism–rather than extrapolating from Scriptures on faith–I think you’ll see that baptism was the apostles version of the sinner’s prayer. It’s the way that early Christians carried out their faith in Christ, and so they were born again and washed their sins away in baptism.

    The veneration of Mary belongs to the 4th century or later. I’m more familiar with the Pre-Nicene writings, and I can tell you that it’s just not there in their writings.

    There’s a couple excellent quotes on the place of Scripture in the early fathers. I can think of even the location of two of them, but since I can’t quote them well enough to do them service I’ll wait for my next response. Irenaeus and Tertullian definitely say that the apostles’ traditions need to be verified with Scripture.

    To be fair, though, I think you’ll find that Roman Catholics are willing to attempt to back up their traditions with Scripture (not very well, but they do attempt it).

    Also, in the very same works that produced the statement that everything should be verified with Scripture, there are statements that the apostles’ churches, such as Ephesus, Philippi, and Rome, could and should be consulted on matters of disagreement because even heretics quote Scripture.

    Again, references later.

  7. Douglas Hollis says:

    Shammah,

    I am grateful to you for the enlightening posts. I am a follower of Christ who, in becoming more familiar with the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church, has been left somewhat bewildered that so many could believe a gospel so obviously foreign to that of Biblical Christianity. Yet at the same time, in debating Catholics, I have been surprised to hear the argument that the early church was supposedly ‘Catholic’. And more surprised when I read some of the early fathers’ quotes, which seemed to support such a position!

    You contend that this is a misrepresentation of the fathers, and I would be relieved it that were the case. (Else I would have to see them as heretics, for Scripture can never be overruled by a ‘father’, regardless of his reputation). So, did the early church really believe in ‘transubstantiation,’? If so, when did this belief take shape? I know it was only formally accepted as dogma much later, and I have read somewhere that it was met with some resistance at the time…not sure though). I would dearly appreciate some good info on this.

    I would like to ask the same for baptismal regeneration and the veneration of Mary.

    Come to think of it, I also read somewhere (but with somewhat lacking references) that the RCC’s emphasis on tradition (what it calls ‘the unanimous consent of the fathers’) is actually dealt a death blow by the very traditions they profess to believe…the early church fathers seem to have continually referred to the Scriptures to settle any arguments! Is this true, and could you provide me with some references to look up?

    Thank you once again, and Godbless.

  8. Shammah says:

    For the record, Brian did comment again, and I did not approve the comment.

    I am not interested in going over one more thing and one more thing and one more thing, most of which are not the least bit reasonable. For example, he presented arguments that celibacy for priests is Scriptural. Priests, originally, were presbyters/elders, and Paul twice gives qualifications for elders. Both times he says that they should be the husband of one wife.

    Now, a Catholic may argue that those passages don’t require an elder to be married, though they seem to, but he certainly can’t argue that’s it’s scriptural to forbid them to marry.

    It is simply silly to defend celibacy for church leaders as scriptural. At that point, we’re not having a discussion, we’re having a kindergarten argument.

    Brian did write the following, “Your accusations of dishonesty are unconstructive and seem to be intended to stifle any opinion other than your own. I am not dishonest.”

    I don’t really think that defenders of the Catholic Church are personally dishonest in their lives. However, the way the Catholic church and its apologists handle Cyprian and Irenaeus is purposefully deceitful. They withhold important information, especially with Cyprian, who specifically speaks against any bishop’s right to rule over other bishops.

    Anyone can come up with new arguments for their position if they don’t care whether their arguments are true. I don’t care to spend my time dealing with such things.

  9. Liz says:

    I will pray that the holy spirit enlighten you. It is really sad that protestants have such animosity towards the catholic church.

    signed.

    Life long catholic

    • John Michael says:

      We are not protestants. We grew up in the RCC, and seeing all the contradictions and corruption, longed for truth and something better than what we saw.

      We don't exclude people based on doctrine, as true-hearted people eventually get what they need. We exclude people who claim to be disciples of Christ who don't look like him, and refuse to admit it and turn to God to be saved.

      We actually have some friends who obviously love God and are doing their best to follow him in the RCC.

      They are by far the exception.

      In the early church of the apostles dedicated loving followers were the rule, and those that were not were asked to repent, or leave and quit pretending to be set apart for God.

      Both the teaching of the RCC, and the overall lifestyle of the vast majority of the followers of Rome have changed so drastically that those simple, holy men of old would not recognize the modern RCC as anything remotely related to them.

      Their message (Paul's, Peter's, John's, and the others') would clearly be, "Repent!"

  10. Shammah says:

    1. I was referring to the only comment you left here. The whole first paragraph was simply error–or at best wildly hopeful speculation–pronounced as truth with absolutely nothing to back it up. So I pointed that out.

    2. You missed my point on Peter. Yes, Peter would have had great authority as an apostle. However, to Peter elder/presbyter and bishop were interchangeable terms. He uses them interchangeably in 1 Pet. 5:1-4. The letter from the Romans to the Corinthians, known to tradition as 1 Clement, does the same in chs. 42 and 44. Bishops are always plural in those writings.

    3. Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, which is the 1st time we ever read of a singular bishop in Rome, is written 90 years after 1 Clement. Ireneaus was raised in a church with a singular bishop. By 185, even Rome and the rest of Paul and Peter’s churches had adopted the eastern custom of one bishop. It is no surprise that Irenaeus’ thought (wrongly) that there was just one bishop in Rome at the beginning of the 2nd century.

    4. Your statement that the Catholic Church, based on tradition and Scripture, has taught a primacy in Rome is false. The earliest there is a mention of such a thing is 185. The Scriptures, no matter how you interpret Matthew 16 in reference to Peter, say nothing of anything being passed on to Rome.

    5. The first person to apply Peter’s authority to bishops–Cyprian of Carthage–specifically disagreed with and overrode the authority of the bishop of Rome, then also clearly said that Peter’s authority went to all bishops as one, representing the one church. All of that happens in A.D. 250, too late to matter.

    6. It’s offensive and dishonest that you and other defenders of Roman Catholic error quote Ireneaus’ comments about Rome without quoting his similar comments about Smyrna and Ephesus. He specifically says he mentions Rome only because he doesn’t have time to list the bishops of all the churches.

    7. I have to suppose if you don’t have truth on your side, you’re left with that kind of dishonesty. It’s the same dishonesty that leads to quoting Cyprian as teaching the authority of Rome while he called a council of 87 bishops specifically denying the authority of Rome.

    8. I’m not sure how to take your comment about the council of Ephesus in 431 being some sort of proof of 1st century practice except to laugh as though it were a joke. It’s simply nonsensical. And then to take the statement that Rome’s bishop has a similar authority to Alexandria’s as somehow meaning that he has far more authority … sorry, that’s just bizarre.

    9. My statement that the Roman Catholic church was full of corruption in the middle ages is known to be true by everyone. The inquisition speaks for itself. The burning of William Tyndale, John Huss, and digging up the bones of John Wycliffe twelve years after he died to burn them, too … it’s astonishing even a Catholic would try to defend the hierarchy that approved these things.

    Have you read my page on the Western Great Schism? It’s at http://www.christian-history.org/western-great-schism.html. Listen, the history of the papacy of the middle ages is like some kind of joke. The obviously unscriptural practice of celibacy in church leadership is one reason that sexual misbehavior was simply the norm among middle age priests.

    Let me recommend _A World Lit Only by Fire_ for a secular account of the horrendous behavior of the RCC popes and prelates of the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s well-documented. Don’t let kids read it, though, as their behavior needs an NC-17 rating.

    10. Simply put, if one had never heard of the RCC, there wouldn’t be a hint of such an idea until Irenaeus’ quote in A.D. 185. But someone who never heard of the RCC would read what he read of Smyrna and Ephesus, too, and would see the obvious, that Irenaus was simply saying that the truth was handed down from bishop to bishop and one set of elders to another in Rome–thus requiring all churches to agree with them–and in Antioch and Smyrna, too (thus requiring all churches to agree with them as well).

    The argument that truth was handed down from bishop to bishop from around A.D. 65 to around A.D. 185 is a good argument. The argument that truth was maintained by handing down from bishop to bishop from A.D. 65 to A.D. 1965 is a silly and useless argument, even if all the bishops were good.

    They weren’t. Many of them didn’t even try to follow God (again, you can always see my story on the Western Great Schism to see the state of things).

    11. Finally, and more importantly than all the above, anyone who reads the book of Acts and the letters to the churches and compares those with what he’ll find in a modern Catholic Church is going to have a hard time finding anything similar. If a person is longing to live the daily fellowship from house to house, communing with one another, having an influence on all around them and experiencing the power of God … well, he’s extremely unlikely to find it in a Roman Catholic Church.

    I was raised Roman Catholic. I’ve seen and attended Catholic churches in Hawaii, Kansas, Taiwan, Germany, Texas, North Dakota, and California. I never saw one even remotely resembling what we read about in Acts and the letters. I mean not even close, and it would be a foolish joke and an offense to God to pretend it was so.

    Of course, we won’t fare much better in a Protestant church. That’s okay, though, because the church has always been local, and it’s always been few. When Christians quit gathering in wordly organizations–yes, like the RCC–and come together, leaving behind the nominal Christians, those who aren’t even trying to obey Christ, and come together–as their hearts already long to–then we’ll see the church, and we’ll see the things we read about in the book of Acts.

    Just so you know, Brian, there’s little chance I’ll let this conversation continue. There’s a lot better things to write about than proving the obvious–that an organization that bears little to no resemblance to anything Scriptural is not the church. So what I’ve written here will have to suffice for those who have questions.

  11. Brian says:

    I’m not sure what your first comment means, but if it means what I think it means, it seems to be a self reproval more than anything else. If you are referring to a specific comment of mine, I would appreciate it if you would specify which one.

    I disagree with your statement that there was no individual bishop of Rome in the time of Peter or Clement and not until after the Council of Nicea. I interpret this to mean that you don’t believe there was a true leader of the Church at that time. Irenaeus, whom I know you are quite familiar with, writes that Peter and Paul, “having founded and built up the Church of Rome…handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus.” This infers that an office of the episcopate, or bishopric, existed at that time. I take it that you don’t disagree with this, but you seem to be saying that there was more than one bishop in Rome and that the term bishop and elder are equivalent. This could very well be true. Certainly the Church structure was not in a form then that is equivalent to modern times. The Church, having both a physical and spiritual component, had to adapt the physical part to the circumstances of the times in order to properly fulfill its role of teaching and leading all to Christ. Therefore some changes were needed as time went on. Blessed John Henry Newman describes this as looking at a boyhood picture of an old man and expecting the man and the image in the picture to look exactly alike. Certainly there is a distinct resemblance, but they are not identical. As far as the terms bishop and elder being equivalent, there does seem to be a lot of overlap in the usage of these terms. Even still, I don’t think Peter’s reference to his fellow elders supports your original claim of lack of leadership. For one thing, as an Apostle, Peter would certainly have a greater authority than an ordinary elder. Secondly, Peter’s statement is similar to the President of the United States using the term “my fellow Americans.” No one would construe this to mean that the President has no more authority than an ordinary citizen. As for Clement’s letter, you seem to be missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. Clement’s letter was written as an authoritative admonishment of the Corinthian Church’s removal of their rightful bishop in favor of one of their own schismatic bishops. Even though the Apostle John was still alive at this time and would have been geographically closer to Corinth, the letter of correction to the Corinthians is sent from Clement at Rome. Regardless of the semantics, the Catholic Church, based on the tradition handed down by the Apostles and on Scripture, has taught that a pre-eminent position of doctrinal authority has always been associated with the See of Peter or the Bishop of Rome, i.e. Peter and his successors.

    Clement even says in closing his letter to the Corinthians, “If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgressions and in no small danger (59, 1; Jurgens p. 12, #28a). This sounds pretty authoritative.

    St. Irenaeus also states, “For with this Church (i.e. the Church of Rome), because of its superior origin, all the Churches must agree, that is , all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition” (Ag. Her. 3,3,2; Jurgens p. 90, #210).

    Then there is this statement from the Council of Ephesus:
    “It is doubtful to none, nay it has been known to all ages, that holy and blessed Peter, the prince and head of the Apostles, the column of the Faith, the foundation of the Catholic Church, received from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, the keys of the Kingdom, and that to him was given the power of binding and loosing sins, who until this day and for ever lives and judges in his successors. His successor in order and his representative, our holy and most blessed Pope Celestine.”

    Even though this statement was made in 431 A.D. it provides ample evidence that the Church professed the authority of Peter and his successors from the earliest days after Christ’s ascension into Heaven. Canon 6 from the Council of Nicea can actually be taken as a support of this in that it can be read as a statement of a long-standing practice based on the use of the word “customary”, which is not a word that would be used to designate a new practice. Customary would mean a practice that has been going on for a long time.

    Your statement about Purgatory is new to me. Do you have any references to support your statement that it is an inaccurate leftover of an early teaching? Is this based on some of Tertullian’s comments? If so, please keep in mind that some of his teachings were of his own thought and not strictly in line with the teaching of the Church even at that time. Eventually he joined up with the Montanists, a schismatic sect, and then formed his own schismatic group once he parted ways with the Montanists. I’m not saying this to cast dispersions on all of his writings. He wrote many very orthodox works and is considered one of the Church Fathers. The thing to keep in mind is that individual writings and teachings of the Church Fathers are not infallible. They must still be weighed against the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church, whose sole responsibility it is to preserve and protect the truths of faith and morals as revealed by Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church has a clear well-formulated doctrine regarding Purgatory that is based on the tradition of the Church from the earliest days and confirmed by Scripture. I would be happy to share that with you if you are interested, but I feel this is getting too long to go into it now.

    In closing, the final statement in your response is clearly based on opinion and not fact. The only way to come to this conclusion is to read history while wearing a pretty thick pair of anti-Catholic glasses. There have been many stalwart orthodox popes and bishops down through the ages. They seem to rise up in times that are marked by heresies and corruption. Even though the heresies and corruption may be wide-spread, they do not prevail. The Catholic Church has been rocked with scandal from the beginning, some times are more pronounced than others. It has, as mentioned above, a physical component which can contract diseases. These periods are typically followed by a period of reform within the Church that sweeps across the land at the speed of the Holy Spirit.

    Sorry for being so long-winded, but several topics were brought up and I felt the need to address each of them.

  12. Shammah says:

    It’s amazing the pronouncements that get made by people as though somehow announcing something makes it true.

    Peter used bishops and elders interchangeably in 1 Pet. 5:1-4. Clement of Rome speaks the same way in 1 Clement 42 & 44. There was no individual bishop of Rome in Peter’s day or Clement’s.

    As for the bishop of Rome being given authority over Italy, that happened in Canon 6 of the Council of Nicea, which you can read here.

    You’re right that this is authority over churches, not secular authority; I haven’t a clue why you think I didn’t know that. My point stands as obviously accurate: the Roman bishop did not have spiritual authority over all churches even in the 4th century at Nicea, thus dating the origin of the pope after that.

    Purgatory is an inaccurate leftover of an early church and Scriptural teaching that both the righteous and unrighteous dead are held in a holding place the early churches called Hades. Since they are awaiting judgment, it would not have been strange to pray for the unrighteous that they might have a favorable judgment, though there is virtually no early acknowledgment of doing so. The earliest I know of is in Perpetua and Felicitas of the early 3rd century.

    Finally, my generalization of the Roman Catholic church as having no knowledge of the Gospel and rampant corruption is accurate enough to justify the statement. Yes, there were exceptions, but they were rare enough that my general assessment of Catholicism at that time is acceptable.

  13. Brian says:

    You have a serious misunderstanding of the Roman Catholic Church and its heirarchy. The Bishops of the Catholic Church are the successors of the apostles and their authority is one of preserving and teaching the truths revealed by Christ (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #77, 861, and 862). They have authority to teach, not a temporal authority. Also, the office of the Bishop of Rome has existed since St. Peter held it and continues to this day. The Bishop of Rome has always been the visible head of Christ’s church on earth. He was never given authority over Italy.

    With respect to purgatory, there are several Scripture passages that teach that an intermediate state of purification exists (Matt 12:32, 1 Cor 3:15, 1 Pet 3:18-20 and 4:6). Tertullian, writing in the year AD 211, said, “We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries” (in The Crown 3,3 or Jurgens “Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1, #367).

    You also have a biased view of why the Protestant Reformation happened. True, there was some corruption within the Catholic Church, but to say “there was no subservience to Christ, no knowledge of the Gospel, just rampant corruption” is patently false.

  14. Shammah says:

    Okay, I also approved your last comment, even though it was way too long.

    Your comment about the division of Protestants is true. However, the fact that Protestantism is not the true church does not make the Roman Catholic Church true. Everything I said in my post is basically still unanswered.

    Catholics think that Jesus promised that the church wouldn’t fall when he said the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it. Unless Jesus was wrong, that can’t be what he meant because in the 4th century most churches fell. It’s as simple as that. They lost their testimony, and they stopped serving Christ.

    The Roman Catholic Church didn’t even exist until after that. At the Council of Nicea, in 325, the Roman bishop was given authority over all Italy, not over all the western world. That didn’t happen until later.

    So Jesus couldn’t have had the Roman Catholic Church in mind when he said the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail.

  15. Shammah says:

    The early church fathers were not Catholic as in Roman Catholic. You can see my teaching on that subject at http://www.christian-history.org/who-was-the-first-pope.html.

    You make a lot of statements here, but very little is true. I hardly know how to answer. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, depending on how you define it, was taught by early church fathers, but purgatory and the immaculate conception just aren’t there.

    There’s no good way to “prove” that. They’re not there. Can you provide a reference for any of your claims?

    The Protestant Reformation happened because the Roman Catholic Church was full of idolatry and immorality, worshiping saints and Mary ahead of Christ. There was no subservience to Christ, no knowledge of the Gospel, just rampant corruption.

    Hierarchies will always be rampantly corrupt because they were not established by God. They belong to centuries after Christ, and they’ve been corrupt from the beginning.

    See http://www.christian-history.org/fall-of-the-church-1.html

    I think the rest of your points are sufficiently answered in my blog post.

  16. Shammah says:

    I’m horrified to think that your comments have been sitting unmoderated since December 19. I’m so sorry!

    Once approved, future comments don’t have to be moderated, so that won’t happen again.

  17. Grant says:

    The Early Church Fathers were also Catholic.

  18. Grant says:

    Many of The Early Church Fathers believed in Purgatory, Immaculate Conception, The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, et cetera.
    Many were Catholic. Roman Catholic believe in what Catholic believed back then, we are the same.

  19. Grant says:

    One Body
    We can ask our Protestant friend to read aloud St. Peter’s instruction, 2 Pet 1:20 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” Most Protestants respond that this means the Holy Spirit will guide each individual Protestant. But then we look at 2 Pet 3:16 “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” Why would St. Peter say that the ignorant and unstable twist St. Paul’s letters if the Holy Spirit were guiding them? The need for Church authority was so widely accepted among the early Christians that even the Ethiopian eunuch answered Philip, Acts 8:31 “How can I [understand Isaiah] unless someone guides me?”

    It is inconceivable that Jesus, who promised that, Mt 16:18 “… the powers of death shall not prevail against it,” and, Mt 28:20 “I am with you always,” allowed fifteen centuries, 60 generations, of His followers to pass into eternity without true teaching.

    Many Protestants, nonetheless, formed a doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” which says that every believer’s direct relationship with God gives him an interpretation of Scripture. Each Protestant denomination believes that it finds in Scripture the Holy Spirit’s revealed truth, but each denomination’s beliefs are different. If one believes what another denies, one of them is wrong. Private interpretation often leads Protestants far astray. For example, Jesus told us, Mt 23:9 “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Conservative Protestants often cite this to challenge the Catholic priest’s title, “Father.” But when we read the whole Bible it becomes obvious that Jesus had used figurative language to say that God is the source of all truth and authority. God had commanded, Ex 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother.” St. Paul wrote, 1 Cor 4:15 “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” and, Thes 2:11 “…like a father with his children…” St. Paul also began his defense against the crowd, Acts 22:1 “Brethren and fathers…” If our Protestant is a man with children, we can ask whether his name appears as father on his children’s birth certificates.
    The Protestant movement has become a theological bedlam with something like thirty thousand different denominations. Embarrassed Protestants sometimes try to claim that if the existence of a separate corporate identity constitutes a denomination then every Catholic diocese and religious order is a separate denomination. However, these orders are not autonomous but are in union with and juridically obedient to the Holy See. The Catholic Church has great diversity in spirituality, mission, and strategy, but alone maintains the authentic oneness that Christ said would characterize His Church. Protestants have division even where they claim unity; for instance, in the United States the Lutheran World Federation cannot claim the Missouri Synod or the Wisconsin Synod.
    Protestants reply that they agree on the essential issues and disagree on the peripheral issues. But calling baptism, Holy Eucharist, ecclesiology, liturgy, matrimony, sin, salvation, and eschatology “peripheral issues” does not change anything. They are major doctrines, tenaciously held by their respective denominations.
    Let us look at the first two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Christ said, Jn 3:5 “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jn 6:53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” If Christ says a particular sacrament is essential to our salvation, how can anyone consider it non-essential?
    In fact, Protestant denominations have no authoritative way to determine which beliefs are essential and which are not. We can discover what each denomination considers essential for unity by asking three questions: Who can pastor? Who can preach? Who can join? Most pastors from one Protestant tradition are not allowed to pastor churches from other traditions. Calvinists will not accept a Lutheran pastor because he believes in baptismal regeneration. Methodists will not accept a Calvinist pastor because he believes in predestination. Baptists will not accept a Methodist pastor because he believes in infant baptism. And so on.
    During the first 1,500 years of Christendom there were no printing presses. Bibles were hand copied by monks. Each monastery had a large room called a scriptorium. Each monk would sit at a desk hand copying a page of Sacred Scripture. It took one monk three years to produce a single Bible. The monasteries produced Bibles so that priests could read them to their mostly illiterate congregations. For 1,500 years virtually all Scripture reading and teaching was done by Catholic priests. It is inconceivable that Jesus, who promised that, Mt 16:18 “… the powers of death shall not prevail against it,” and, Mt 28:20 “I am with you always,” allowed fifteen centuries, 60 generations, of His followers to pass into eternity without true teaching.

  20. Grant says:

    I would like for you guys to prove me wrong.

  21. Grant says:

    The Church of the Bible is Infallible, it is also One in Mind and Soul.

    The Baptist,Methodist, et cetera Churches are divided.
    They are not “One” because different Baptist, Methodist, et cetera Churches have different interpretations.

    Like some Baptist churches believe in Baptizing babies. Some Baptist churches believe in waiting to be Baptized when your older. They all disagree on different doctrines. They are not one.

    The Baptist Church, Methodist Church, et cetera does not have the fullness of the truth. One reason being is because they are divided. They were also started in the Protestant Reformation 1500 years after Jesus Christ.

    The Catholic Church is the Only Church thats teachings are “One”.

    A Catholic Church in Georgia will have no different beliefs and scripture interpretations from a Catholic Church in South carolina. Catholics are “one”

    The pillar and support of the truth is not a local Church unless it is Roman Catholic.

    The gates of hell will never prevail against the Church of the Bible. That is true. The Protestant Church was started 1,500 years after Jesus Christ. The Protestant Church is not infallible. It is not “One” in its teaching.

    Maybe some Popes and Priests have been corrupt, they are humans. But the Church (Catholic Church) has never been taken out.

    The whole Point of this is the Church of the Bible is not just a regular Church, or at someones home. Because different people have different interpretations. Jesus Christ does not want his flock divided and believe different teachings. The Church of Jesus Christ is completely “One” in teaching.

  22. britt says:

    Very good. Thanks for this.

    I’ve also thought about how the Catholics have some value in some things they hold and teach, which is funny to me because they are so off in other areas.

    Peace.

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